Israelis and Palestinians exchanged gunfire on Sunday at the headquarters of Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat. Arafat has been trapped in the besieged compound in Ramallah, West Bank, since Friday.
Chief Palestinian negotiator Saeb Erakat told CNN that Arafat's bodyguards exchanged fire with the Israeli soldiers, and some Palestinian guards were wounded. Erakat said Israeli troops had entered Arafat's compound. The Israeli military said it had returned fire when a Palestinian gunman came out of the building containing Arafat's office and opened fire on them.
An Israeli spokesman said the soldiers did not enter Arafat's office. Two Palestinian guards were seriously wounded, Palestinian sources said, and ambulance services could not reach them.
Erakat said Saturday he feared for Arafat's life "and the lives around him. This is a very grave development and it could lead to a massacre." Israel officials have said they will not harm Arafat.
Palestinian Information Minister Yasser Abed Rabbo, who is not inside the compound, said Israeli forces stormed the building. Palestinian security officials in the building said troops cut a hole through one of the walls and took over Arafat's personal quarters on the second floor. The officials said Arafat was just meters away from the battling forces.
Palestinian sources said soldiers entered the dining room adjacent to Arafat's office. As the incident unfolded, Israel’s Foreign Minister Shimon Peres told Army Radio that Israel had no intention of harming Arafat.
Despite orders to troops not to harm Arafat, Israeli officers said at the weekend that the situation at the site was very sensitive and that it would be impossible to rule out the possibility of Arafat being harmed, by accident, during clashes.
Meanwhile, four Palestinian security men were shot dead on Sunday at a social club which had been taken over by Israeli forces in southern Ramallah, Palestinian security officials told AFP.
The bodies of the four could be seen in the street outside the club, but the Palestinians could not approach as an Israeli tank was still in the street, the Palestinian officials said. (Albawaba.com)
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